Sunday, February 3, 2013

Charlie Pointer Story

Charlie Pointer

On a visit to his home on January 31, 2013, Charlie Pointer told me that he turned 89 years old on January 1, 2013; he said, “I had a stroke not long ago, but it did not hurt my mind; the people at the nursing home have helped me recover a lot of use of my right arm and hand.  I have always lived within five miles of where I was born.”  Even though Charlie was hard of hearing, his mind was sharp as a tack; he immediately started telling me of his boyhood days like it was yesterday. 

Charlie knew that I had talked to him on several occasions and knew I wanted him to tell me the history of his family.  He began telling me about the struggles for survival when times for black folks were nearly as bad as the days of slavery.  He told me of his dad making ten cents per day for long days of labor; if his parents did not do the work that the land owner required, they would have to find another place to live.  Sometimes Charlie’s folks were not paid a dime for their hard farm work, but given a ticket that they could swap the store owner for food.  Charlie grew up in a time that was tough to even survive; wages were extremely low, the work was extremely hard, the days were long, but his family had to have a home.

From his chair in the living room of his home, Charlie pointed south toward West Flint Creek which lay just south of the Old Moulton Road and said, “I was born just across West Flint Creek on the Lamar Cartwright place on January 1, 1924.”  Charlie’s present-day home is approximately one mile north of Red Hill Cemetery which is adjacent to the Old Moulton Road; the cemetery is a few miles west of the present-day Five Points Store.

Jim Pointer and Mattie Griffin

Charlie’s father was Jackson Pointer; Jackson’s parents were Jim Pointer and Mattie (Matt) Griffin.  Matt Griffin Pointer was 104 years old when she died; she is buried old Lindsey Cemetery just east of the present-day Jesse Owens Park.   Charlie said that Jim Pointer came from the Wheeler Plantation where he was born a slave.  When he was young and just after the Civil War, Jim walked from the area near the Tennessee River to Alexander Plantation near Oakville and settled in the area.  Jim was getting away from the Wheeler Plantation that had enslaved his folks for generations. 

Charlie said that Jim Pointer met and married his wife Mattie (Matt) Griffin who was born a black slave of the Alexander Plantation.  Sometimes just after the Civil War, Jim and Mattie married; initially, they lived and worked on the Alexander Plantation.  The overseer of the black slaves and post Civil War farmhands for the Alexander Plantation was William Todd Kelsoe.  During the time of Thomas Jefferson Alexander and later Jake Alexander, William Todd Kelsoe became known as “Boss;” he was in charge of the farmhands that lived and worked on the Alexander Plantation.  Boss Kelsoe’s wife was Mary Teague, a Cherokee Indian.  

Alexander Plantation

Jim Pointer worked for a while on the Alexander Plantation located on the north edge of the Warrior Mountains of the present-day William B. Bankhead Forest; initially, the Alexander Plantation probably contained some 10,000 acres in the early days of the county before the land was divided among the Alexander heirs.  The original owner was James Alexander; later his son William and his wife Mary Aldridge Alexander owned the plantation.  According to family members, William Alexander could ride his horse from Danville to Wren and never get off his land.  William and Mary are buried in the Welborn-Alexander Cemetery where my parents are buried. 

William owned some 32 black slaves that became the property of Thomas Jefferson Alexander; after the Civil War, several of the black folks continued to work for Thomas Jefferson Alexander.  Thomas Jefferson Alexander was said to have fathered several children by black slave women; many of the black Alexanders in Moulton, Alabama, claim kinship to the white Alexander folks through Thomas Jefferson Alexander.  In addition, the Fitzgeralds of the Oakville area also claim kinship to the white Alexanders thorough Thomas Jefferson Alexander.  Thomas’ first wife was Caroline Warren; when she got sick, Thomas brought a young white woman by the name of Sallie Fitzgerald to take care of Ms. Caroline. 

Evidently, Sallie got pregnant by Thomas Jefferson Alexander and was asked to leave the home.  Two years later, Caroline Warren Alexander died and Thomas Jefferson Alexander moved Sallie and his two year old son Jake back into the Alexander Plantation home.  When Ms. Sallie moved back into the house, she brought a black house maid with her to take care of the home.  According to Marvin Fitzgerald, a black man from Oakville, Sallie Fitzgerald’s black slave got pregnant by Thomas Jefferson Alexander and that is how the black Fitzgerald’s got their name.

At the time that Jack Pointer was born on the Alexander Plantation in 1891, Jake Alexander was in charge of the plantation.  The Alexander Plantation had passed to Jake from Thomas Jefferson Alexander (8/7/1835-8/3/1890); the place was passed to Thomas from William Alexander (11/20/1803-4/4/1873); it passed to William from James Alexander (1770-8/26/1851).  James Alexander first married Kitty Walker who was born in 1782 from North Carolina.  Kitty was thought to be kin to my fourth great grandfather William Walker; he was born in 1762, and his son William Walker Jr. was born in 1790 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.  James and Kitty Walker Alexander are buried in the Old Alexander Cemetery which is about 100 yards north of where my parents are buried.

While on the Alexander Plantation, Jim farmed and helped make bricks; the Alexander’s had a large brick kiln that was operated by black farmhands who kept the fire going continuously day and night until the brick were hardened.  Many of the handmade bricks were used to make chimneys on the Alexander, Prueit, Willis, Warren, and other places in the area.

Charlie Pointer said that his grandmother Mattie Griffin and her folks were black slaves to the Alexander Plantation; later, Jim and Matt Pointer also worked for the Prueit Family.  Matt told many stories about the Yankees coming through the area during the Civil War.  She said that folks took their belongings, cows, mules, and other things to a large bluff shelter in the mountains where they were hid until the Union soldiers would leave the plantation.  Matt told Charlie’s family that the bluff shelter was large enough to put an average house under that overhanging rock.  Sometimes they would also carry their belongings in wagons into Indian Tomb Hollow to avoid the Union troops that were coming through the area destroying everything they could find.  Many folks on the Alexander Plantation would herd their hogs, mules, cattle, and horses into the Sugar Camp Hollow to hide them from the Yankee soldiers. 

This story is to be continued!  The story will be in my new book, "Black Folk Tales of Appalachia: Slavery to Survival." 

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